Citizens often play a role in deterring crime and helping police officers apprehend criminals. But at what point does a citizen cross a line when getting involved in a crime stop and actually make the situation more dangerous than it was before? A recent robbery in Indianapolis raises some very interesting questions about just that issue.
Several days ago, an Indianapolis suspect held up a Brinks truck in broad daylight in a Walmart parking lot. As most of you know, Brinks trucks are typically loaded with money. When a shopper identified as Jeff saw the holdup, he decided take matters into his own hands.
He chased down the suspect and tackled him to the ground. Once he had the suspect pinned, he pulled out a .22 revolver.
"I said don't resist," Jeff said. "He said he needed to turn over. I said 'Too bad, that's what happens when you rob a Brinks truck.'"
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When police arrived moments later, they panicked. After all, they only saw one man pinning down another with a gun put to his head. They yelled at the man to drop his weapon and immediately put his hands in the air.
"I said, 'OK, OK, I'm the good guy here' and laid down my gun on the pavement," Jeff said.
Police put Jeff in a squad car while they figured out the situation. The suspect was eventually arrested and Jeff was released. Regardless, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Rick Hite says the event illustrates the caution needed when getting involved in incidents like this.
"If you get involved, do so cautiously, and that means don't put people or yourself in harm's way," Hite said.
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Former Indiana State police officer and current Indiana University professor Jim White spoke to the Indy Star extensively about the dangers encountered when citizens intervene in crime stops as Jeff did.
"If you pull a weapon in a crowded place you need to be highly trained in how to use it," White said. "There are just so many things that can wrong. Police and soldiers go through thousands of hours of training for this, and it is still the riskiest thing they will encounter on the job. [Officers arriving on the scene] don't know what they're dealing with. All they see is a guy point a gun at another person's head. That was remarkable discipline on the part of IMPD. It could have ended in disaster."